This is one of the hardest posts for me to write yet. What is more frustrating is that I can’t really figure out why. I don’t think it is writer’s block, and one would think that writing about yourself should be easy enough.
One would think.
When this DP Challenge came out, I was in awe at how quickly people responded to this. You are that in touch with yourself? And I don’t mean that as an insult. I am genuinely shocked and simultaneously impressed with how easily this came to so many people.
Why was this so hard for me?
I tried the clever approach, the witty approach, the allegorical approach, and it all sound false and hollow.
And it’s not that I don’t have a good grasp of who I am. Believe me, I do. I can very clearly remember a time in my life when I didn’t, when the concept of ‘self-awareness’ was about as foreign to me as quantum physics.
But I’ve grown since then. A lot. And while I don’t necessarily always like who I am, I have a pretty solid idea about who I am.
I was just having a hard time summing up myself; every phrase sounded trite and rehearsed.
Instantly, another line from Whitman’s “Song of Myself” popped into my head (that’s what happens when you are an English teacher):
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes)”
Whitman captured the reality but not the essence of what I feel about myself. He was OK with, even proud of, being a walking contradiction. I am not. Even though I know at times, this describes me.
I think we all ‘contain multitudes.’ And maybe that is why this piece is hard for me to write – not because I don’t know myself, but because I do.
In the past, I’ve had my students write their own “Song of Myself.” One year (probably one of my earlier, more ambitious years), I tried to write my own version of it. I didn’t get far, but I wish I still had that opened-up-offering-envelope that I scratched my ideas down on. I’d like to see the version of myself that I thought I was then.
And maybe that’s why it’s hard to write this: because, on many levels, we are always changing, always growing, always re-inventing ourselves.
So, with that being said – all the while knowing that I won’t be fully ‘me’ – the me I was intended to be according to the mind of God that ‘invented’ me – until I see Jesus, I would like to think that there are some ‘constants’ in this evolution of becoming who I am meant to be.
So, after a 450-word disclaimer, this is me, as best as I know myself – incomplete, raw, evolving – but hopefully becoming more like my Jesus every day:
I am big-hearted; sometimes I care too much, and it gets me in trouble. Sometimes I care too much, and I know it has made a difference. I have been like this since I was a kid, my mother tells me. But honestly, I don’t want to live any other way. That wouldn‘t be me.
I am self-conscious; I care too much about what people think, and I constantly edit myself without realizing it. I want to live more authentically, honestly, and more comfortably in my authenticity and honesty, more comfortably in my own skin.
I am a perfectionist; sometimes that is unknowingly applauded because I work so hard, and people praise that. I want to be OK with a B+ as the GPA on my life report card if that was the best I could do while keeping balance and sanity.
I am deep; I can’t survive doing life on a surfacey or superfical level: thinking, loving, worshiping, relating, living, experiencing. It has to be the real deal or nothing. I can’t live a life that is the existential equivalent of cocktail-party small-talk.
I am at my best when I know I am playing my part in God’s story. I am energized, motivated, enthusiastic when I am living for something bigger and greater and grander than myself and my story – for something that is eternal. My story is not big enough to live for.
I am at my worst when I am sucked into my small story. I am worried, nervous, discontent. I tended to struggle with near-sightedness when it comes to viewing my own life. But when I step back and see the whole picture – the whole, eternal story, not just my small part – peace and contentment return: it’s not all about me. There was a time when that thought made me shudder and cringe – it was depressing to me; now, it brings me relief.
So, up to this point in my life, the story of this girl is something like this:
This girl is loved eternally by her Maker. She began as just a thought in His eternal brilliance, and someday, she will return to Him to live with Him forever. This brief blip on the radar screen of life is her chance to play her part in His eternal story. While she is doing that, He is growing her, shaping her, changing her, loving her into the daughter He had in His heart when He created her.
She is still figuring out exactly what that means and who that is – and she’ll mess it up from time to time. Or maybe more than that. But He is the one making her. And who this girl truly is and is becoming is yet to be seen.
And in the end, she might just surprise us all.